11/2001 - Burma

13-day trip in Burma ( Myanmar) visiting Yangon , Bago , Mandalay, Mingun, Thanboddhay , Moniwa , Caves Pho Win Daung , Hero, Pindaya Cave, Pindaya, Inle Lake, Bagan.

Burma is a beautiful country , quite poor and very religious.
Thanks to their religion the Burmans are able to overcome the daily difficulties of survival always with a smile on their lips.
Despite their economic difficulties the Burmans are always generous in making donations of money in favour of their church .
These donations allow the construction of temples and religious monuments of great importance and bigness as, for example, a reclining Buddha which is long more than 100 meters.
In Yangon, we visited several pagodas, the National Museum and the covered market.

Very impressive, especially at sunset, the “Sule Paya” (Pagoda) and the Karaweik Royal Barge, anchored in the lake Kandawgyi

Particularly interesting, in the “Chaukhtatgyi Paya”, the reclining Buddha. It is 90 meters long and has got a beautiful painted face and finely decorated soles.

The “Shwedagon Paya” is the most beautiful and the largest pagoda in Burma . On its top there is a huge golden stupa surmounted by a globe which is encrusted with diamonds and precious stones.


We went to Bago, the ancient capital of Burma, to visit the “Shwemawdaw Paya” , one of the most revered pagodas in the country with a 114-meter-high stupa built by the Mon more than a thousand years ago.

On the way back to Yangon we visited Shwethalyaung with its large reclining Buddha and the “Kyaik Pun Paya” with four huge statues of Buddha , each one seated on one of the four sides of a high cube .

We left Yangon to visit Mandalay, which was the last royal capital of Burma, on the banks of the Ayeyarwady River .
The “Shwenandaw Kyaung” monastery, made in teak wood, was a hall of the Royal Palace which was moved and turned into a monastery, before the fire that destroyed the Royal Palace .
The “Kuthodaw Paya” surrounded by 729 small white stupa each containing a marble slab inscribed with a page of the Buddhist canon and the “Mahamuni Paya” with an image of the seated Buddha covered with golden leaves applied by devotees; due to these applications, the image has reached the thickness of 15 cm and the original features have changed. Finally, we saw the U Bein bridge, the longest teak bridge in the world (1200 meters) .

Before leaving Mandalay, we went to visit “Mahagandayon Kyaung”, a school for monks . We could be present at their meal, one a day, eaten in complete silence .
It was interesting to see them doing the dishes and visit one of their dormitory.

We went to the village of Mingun, on the opposite bank of the Ayeyarwady River , and visited the white “Settawya Paya” in which there is a marble footprint of Buddha . Then we visited the “Mingun Paya” a pagoda with a colossal size, never completed and heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1838.
And finally the “Hsinbyume Paya” , modelled according to the Buddhist idea of the cosmos.
It was interesting to see the floating islands going downstream; on these islands, made by a large quantity of tree trunks tied together, live the families of the transporters.

Along the road that leads to Monywa, we arrived at Thambuddhei where, in the homonymous pagoda, there are 582.357 images of Bhudda .
Nearby, there is a field where one thousand banana trees were planted, one hundred per side. Next to each tree there is a life-size statue of Buddha . Then, one thousand Buddha !

We continued our trip beyond Monywa and reached the Hquo Win Hill on which numerous caves were carved, the Pho Win Daung caves.
They say that the caves contain more than 400.000 Buddha statues.
Back to Mandalay, we flew to Hero to visit the Pindaya Caves and Inle Lake .

Along the road to Pindaya we enjoyed wonderful and colourful rural landscapes .

Pindaya welcomed us with a magnificent and colorful market .
We were the only tourists there and we felt like intruders .
We were greatly surprised to see buyers who were choosing fried grasshoppers one by one.

The Pindaya cave contains more than 8.000 Buddha statues in alabaster, teak , lacquer, plaster , etc. .
The statues have been donations of the devotees in the course of ages; they are positioned in a disordered way and form a real labyrinth even with very cramped passages.
Before the exit there is a huge stalagmite which emits a dull sound when it is hit with a big bamboo cane.

When we arrived at Inle Lake we reached a small village where women of the Padaung tribe live.
As the photos show, these women wear brass rings around their neck; the brass coils can weigh even more than 22 kg .
The rings crush women’s shoulders and give the impression that they have a very long neck .

The Inle Lake is the “Venice of Burma”. On its waters there are 17 villages whose houses stand on stilts and are inhabited by the Intha tribe. It is quite curious their way of fishing and much more original their way of rowing : they help themselves with one foot .
The Intha grow vegetables on floating islands formed by a mixture of marshland and water hyacinths. These latter that take the water through the algae in the bottom and form solid masses.
In the “Phaung Daw U Paya” there are five small Buddha so revered that the considerable thickness of the golden leaves applied by the devotees made them unrecognizable. In the “Nga Phe Kyaung” Monastery , built on stilts, the monks have taught cats and make them jump inside circles.

We reached by plane the Bagan plain where there are about 800 temples dating from 800 to 1300. They are the remains of 4.446 temples of the thirteenth century which had already diminished to 2.157 in 1901.
We visited the most important temples : Shwezigon , Kyanzittha Umin , Wetkyi -In Gubyakkyi , Alodawpyi , Htilominlo Pahto , Seinnyet Nyima, Nanapaya , Manuha , Myazedy (or Stupa of Emerald ), Kubyaukkyi , Shwensandaw , Mingalardedi , Minnantu , Iza Gaw Na, Nanda Marana, Thonzu , Thambula , Taykepeye , Pahto Ananda , Ananda Ok Kyaung , Thatbyinnyu Patho , Manabodhi , Bupaya. Each temple has its own characteristic for style ( Pyu , Mon ), stucco , bas-reliefs , and of course , Buddha images represented in different shapes and colours .
Each “Paya” has its own beauty , but it is the vision of the whole, more at dawn than at sunset, which is a breathtaking sight .

I conclude these notes on Burma presenting a series of photos of beautiful children.
The little girls of the photographic gallery have on their face the “Thanakha mask” used both for beauty and for sun protection.
The photos of this trip can be seen in the musical slideshow through the following link:

www.viaggiaresempre.it – FILM del viaggio in Birmania